The picture above summarizes the essence of last night’s Republican presidential debate on CNN. It was a political boxing match if there ever was one, but with two against one in the ring: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump.
It’s high time Trump was knocked down a peg or two. Rubio and Cruz, who had previously only been attacking each other, finally gained some courage and ganged up to fight the giant monster Trump has grown into. It was a team effort—Rubio slammed Trump repeatedly, and while Trump attempted to defend himself, Cruz would come in for the knockout punch.
Now, Trump is a bully at heart and was able to fight back as best he could, but his counterarguments largely failed and boiled down to the usual insults: calling everyone liars, jokers, and losers. Even to his voters, this was probably not very convincing.
Rubio began pointing out that Trump had to pay a million dollars in fines for hiring 1,000 undocumented Polish immigrants for a project—a story that, for some reason, no other Republican candidate decided to bring up until eight months into this election cycle.
This is the acme of Trump’s hypocrisy, and something even his supporters would see as questionable. Trump, who has vehemently, viciously targeted immigrants, and undocumented immigrants in particular, is a huge hypocrite because he employs so many foreign workers himself. Thankfully, Rubio finally decided to bring this to the limelight.
Someone installed Rubio's emotion chip. Exciting. #GOPDebate— John Iadarola (@jiadarola) February 26, 2016
Cruz continued packing the punches when it came to immigration, condescendingly mentioning, “In 2013, when I was fighting against the ‘Gang of Eight’ amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”
This, again, is a vital point no one ever makes enough. Trump comes from the world of reality television—it is beyond ridiculous that he is being considered as (and will most likely become) a presidential nominee.
Rubio and Cruz continued in this vein, pounding Trump for refusing to release his tax returns, his four bankruptcies, his fraudulent Trump University (a case in which he’ll actually have to testify in court), the millions he has donated to Democrats, his extremely liberal past, and the millions of dollars he received from his father to grow his business.
One of the most satisfying moments of the night came when Rubio and moderator Dana Bash hounded Trump enough times about his healthcare plan that he was forced to admit he actually had no plan other than “eliminating state lines” to increase competition.
That’s the only way to get to Trump—you must question him incessantly, until he’s forced to reveal the emptiness underneath all the bluster.
Rubio—once a robotic joke thanks to Chris Christie who called him out on his 20 second talking point strategy in a previous debate—suddenly mastered that same game. He pointed out that Trump also repeats himself relentlessly:
“I see him repeat himself every night, he says five things, everyone's dumb, he's gonna make America great again... We're going to win, win win, he's winning in the polls... And the [healthcare] lines around the states.”
It was hilarious because it is so spot on.
Trump attempted to overpower both of them, yet unlike Jeb Bush, who would acquiesce to Trump’s attempts to shut him up, Rubio and Cruz stood their ground. The result was a solid minute of unintelligible yelling as moderator Wolf Blitzer stared, bewildered at what was happening.
Ultimately, Rubio's and Cruz’s efforts were largely successful. They finally pointed out a dozen of the hundreds of flaws Trump has as a candidate, and it was wonderful to witness.
However, it’s most likely too late for any of this to make a difference in Trump’s polling numbers. If Rubio and Cruz had implemented this strategy months, or even weeks ago, they could have eaten into Trump’s lead. Apparently, according to the Daily Kos, no Republican candidates even bothered to do opposition research on Trump until a few days ago. Everyone just assumed he would naturally implode.
But he didn’t, and here we are.
RealClearPolitics aggregate polling shows that Trump is 13 points ahead nationally and already possesses a majority of the delegates—it’s a very difficult situation for either Cruz or Rubio to overcome.
At least they finally decided to show up to play and make things a little more interesting at the last minute.
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